Rock, Paper, Laptop


hieroglyphicsYellow PadsLaptopComputer

Ancient Egyptian writers depended upon chisels and stone as the medium for their hieroglyphics. I’m sure many of them embraced the advances in technology that introduced other resources for their passions. Yet, I imagine there were some who struggled to move forward gleefully.

There was a time when pads of yellow paper graced nearly every table top of our home, patiently waiting for any random thoughts of gibberish to find its way onto a meticulously clean surface. With my companions, a smooth writing pen and lined paper, I delight in sitting cross-legged on my couch or out on the deck, scribbling away with the security of knowing I can rip off a page, crumble it and have a clean slate ready for my next attempt.

Much like reminiscing through old photographs, I can pick up a journal or notebook stuffed with pages of deep thoughts, easily revisiting my attempts to imitate Robert Frost http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ or Erma Bombeck http://www.ermamuseum.org/home.asp. Sometimes, the words I scripted are buried so deep in the recesses of my mind I don’t recognize the words, yet I always know they are mine because of the handwriting.

It isn’t that I don’t know the capabilities of the black box that had been assigned its own room in the house for many years. My job required extensive knowledge of numerous, ever-changing, complex programs, including the infamous MS Word. Perhaps the challenges forced upon me daily formed a callous on my brain that makes it too painful to imagine drafting my work on my computer.

Seldom did I take the time to store my creations electronically. The few that made it through the final stages of editing onto the complex contraption were lost when the hardware failed. (Thank goodness for my archaic backups!) The thought of composing something while sitting at the keyboard was as foreign the thought of writing a romance novel.

My daughter frequently reminded me of the century we now live in and the advances in technology that she believed would make my life easier, if only I would try something new. The way she rolled her eyes when I’d pick up a tablet and began writing reflected her frustration in my failure to listen. Bless her heart. Instead of nagging endlessly, she generously provided me with a laptop upon my retirement. “You can use it anywhere, mom. You’ll love it.”

So I tried sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the slim blue device balanced on my lap. That lasted about ten minutes before the phone rang and I had to untangle my legs from the wire to get across the room to the phone. What wires you say? The one attached to the mouse of course. Yes, I know others may use the one built into their machine, but using the touch pad doesn’t work for me because I keep resting my thumbs as I ponder my next line. If you have never been gifted in this ability, let me describe what happens next. The perfect words you struggled for fifteen minutes to compose transform themselves into paragraphs and sentences for which they were not intended. The time it took to find and edit them is just long enough for the thought to pass and there you sit staring at the screen again. I fixed the problem by disabling the gizmo – ok, I had to have help with that too.

I often found myself reverting back to paper and pen. It wasn’t until I decided to write my first novel that I considered the time-consuming effort it would take to write a 50,000 word manuscript and then transpose it onto the computer. One day, after much deliberation, I relented and established a work zone in my dining room where I began typing and editing the dozens of pages I had written before coming to my senses.

I opened the French doors leading onto the deck and felt a delightful breeze drift in. The chirp of a nearby cardinal provided for an opportunity to procrastinate and it wasn’t long before I ventured out onto the deck with all tools in hand. My fairybook visions of spending the next few hours accomplishing great things dissipated in seconds. The gentle wind turned into a gust and blew my stacks of paper high into the sky. With arms flailing, I scrambled urgently to retrieve the papers in flight for fear of a neighbor stealing page 10 of a best seller.

Once I even tried taking my laptop on a daytrip to the river where my husband docked his boat. He often liked to visit for hours with a friend who lives there. What a great opportunity, I thought. I’ll be inspired as the river carries barges through the lock and dam. Surely a poem or some type of masterpiece was waiting to find its way into my laptop. I proudly headed to the lovely swing where I had often written in my small journal.

I shifted the mouse and pad from my leg to the bench of the swing. I tried numerous positions to no avail. I decided to remove the accessory and use the touchpad. Try as I might, I could not remember the sequence of steps my friend had shown me to reactivate the function. By the time I successfully retrieved the info from my wary brain, the battery died on the laptop. I bit my lower lip to keep from screaming and quietly closed the lid and stood up, dropping the mouse and pad at my feet. Anger turned into tears as I gathered all of the pieces and headed back to the car.

My frown turned into a smile when I opened the door and glanced down at the yellow pad and Cross pen that patiently waited for my attention. In one hand, I tossed the laptop on the seat and with the other, I embraced my faithful companions, hugging them close as I strolled back to the wooden swing and settled in for a lovely afternoon.

The transition from rock to paper to laptop has not been easy for some of us. Still, there are benefits to each. Had it not been for the stones that ancient Egyptians carved, much of history would have been lost. Yet hieroglyphics presented many challenges, especially in portability. Paper is readily available, portable and can be treasured for many years, yet it is fragile and fades in time. A laptop stores immense amounts of data, offers unlimited features that transform the written word into works of art, and advances nearly daily in new technology, but with the touch of a delete key, a year’s worth of work can be forever lost into space.

I’ve taken small steps to embrace the wonders of digital technology, but I doubt I will ever relinquish the comfort of paper and pen.

Can you relate?

Daily Post – Fight or Flight Black Cloud Theory Part II


Here’s the rest of my heart thumping weekend.

By my third cup of java, the August sun began to peek through the blinds.  The plan for the morning was outlined in my mind.  I would surprise my husband by mowing the lawn, then take Laura to her swim lessons at the Boys and Girls Club.  I waited until eight-thirty a.m. to drag the mower out from the shed.  It took a few attempts of priming the bulb and pulling the cord, but I was finally able to start the push mower.  I was quite proud of myself.

I had trimmed a mere twenty feet of grass before I found the discreet copper water line that was buried below the tall blades of grass.  In seconds, I thought I had been transported to Yellowstone National Park as I watched a magnificent geyser erupt in front of me.  I stood dumfounded, unable to move.  From shock to frantic, I tried to remember where the shutoff valve might be.  My husband had shown me the one in the house, but that would not help me outside.  I visualized the man poking his rod down into a hole each month as he read the meter and it dawned on me that it was below ground.  I looked around and spotted the deep, spider-filled opening which was barely visible through the overgrown weeds.

I dropped down to my knees, reached in and tried to find the handle.  There was nothing but webs.  The only way to reach the meter was to lay flat on the ground.  I sprawled out, face first, and reached my arm into the hole as far as I could, trying not to think about the crawling creatures that would soon attach themselves to my skin.  There was no handle.  I jumped to my feet and dashed inside to call for help.

“Bill, I need your help now!”  I shouted into the phone.

“Who is this?” Bill Kramer, the trailer court manager, replied.

I could have said it was the crazy, dumb blond from down the street, but instead I identified myself and gave a brief explanation of my crisis.  Bill agreed to come to my rescue.  When he arrived, he took one look at me and burst into laughter.  There I stood, saturated from head to toe with grass clippings clinging to most of my body.  He proceeded to take his wrench and stop Old Faithful as if it was another daily routine.  I thanked him, knowing I would never again be able to have a conversation with him that did not involve my humiliating call.

There was just enough time for a shower and change of clothes before taking Laura to her swim lessons.  An hour of watching her thrash about in the water with her friends would help me relax, I told myself optimistically.  I found a place on the stadium-type bench and tucked my daughter’s shoes and towel and my purse in the space underneath.

I offered a hand to the young mother who came up behind me as she struggled to unload a large diaper bag, purse, towel and an infant in a pumpkin seat.  We chatted a little about her newborn.  She related that she was stressed about the weather report and thunderheads she had seen building on the horizon.  I assured her we were safe inside the sturdy concrete building.

After a short while, she could no longer ignore her concerns and decided to get her daughter from the pool and leave.  I kept an eye on her sleeping baby as she dried off her daughter and gathered all her bags.  Once she had everything balanced over her shoulder or under an arm, she picked up the pumpkin seat and left.

About thirty minutes into the lesson, I reached down to get a piece of gum from my purse.  My hand grasped anxiously from side to side, but couldn’t feel anything that remotely resembled a purse.  I stood up and looked underneath the bench.  Laura’s shoes and a towel were the only things on the floor.  My purse, oh my God!  My purse is gone.

Panic sank in as I remembered my husband was out of town and no one else had keys to my car or house.  I dashed to the check-in desk seeking help.  My voice was quivering as I tried to get someone’s attention, but the staff was too distracted by the impending storm that blackened the skies overhead.

Just as I thought I would burst into tears, the young woman who had sat next to me came rushing through the door with my purse in hand.

“I’m so sorry!  I grabbed your purse when I left.  I didn’t realize until I got home that I had it.  I left the kids with my husband and hurried back as fast as I could.”

Overwhelmed with gratitude, I thanked her and headed back to the bench to once again get my blood pressure under control.  The moment my derriere hit the bench, a large clap of thunder shook the building and all the lights went out.  Fifty blood-curling renditions of “MOM!” were shouted from the pool.  A staff person tried to announce the emergency instructions, but could barely be heard above the shrill screams.  The only back up lights available were BIC cigarette lighters held by a few shaking hands.

One by one, the children were removed from the water and returned to their anxious parents.  With Laura by my side and my car keys securely in hand, we sat briefly waiting for the storm to pass.  The thought of going to the trailer and riding out the storm was ruled out.  I never felt safe there in bad weather even when my husband was there to calm my fears.  Instead, I thought it would be a good time to visit Mom in Florissant.

The skies cleared as Laura and I made the drive to Mom’s house.  Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee while Laura and my youngest sister watched television.  Mom and I retreated to the breezeway as I narrated a brief version of my nightmare weekend.  It was great to finally relax in a secure environment.  Of course, it was just a façade.

I took another sip of coffee and my eyes caught a glimpse of something outside. I studied the blacktop driveway.  It was parallel to the side street and could hold about four cars comfortably if you pulled in close, perpendicular to the fence.  Hadn’t the car been almost touching the fence?  An alarm was going off in my head.   My white Ford Pinto was inching slowly backwards toward the street.  I bolted from my chair, sending the coffee flying everywhere, and dashed down the dozen steps to the bottom landing.  I flung open the screen door and headed for the car.  I was berating myself all the way.  How could I have forgotten to put it in park?  Imagine my surprise when I whipped open the driver’s door and found my little girl scrunched down on the floor board of the passenger side!

Once again my heart felt like I had been in a marathon race.  Thank goodness the side street had little traffic and was relatively flat.   I was able to apply the break and stop the car before it made it into the street.  Laura knew she was in trouble, but I knew if I opened my mouth, she would get all the frustrations of the day.  Instead, I buckled her in the car seat and pushed the car back into its spot.  Mom was standing at the steps by then, so I asked her to keep an eye on Laura while I retrieved my purse and keys from upstairs.  I was going home to lock myself away for the rest of the day.

The ride home was uneventful, thank goodness.  As I unlocked the door to the trailer, I heard the phone ringing.  “How’s it going?” my husband asked on the other end.

“Just fine,” I lied.

 

Fight or Flight – The Black Cloud Theory (Part 1)


Today’s DP Post challenge reminded me of a story that I wrote sometime ago.  It is an excerp from my book, Peaks and Valleys.  I’ve divided it into two parts and hope you enjoy my Fight or Flight experience enough to read the second one tomorrow.

I have a theory that there are celestial forces that cause a black cloud to align over my head like a hovering spacecraft on a regular basis.   I have no concrete proof of this theory, but it repeats itself frequently enough that I am pretty sure I am right.

I encountered this unfortunate occurrence the first time my husband had to travel without us to Louisiana for a few weeks for his job.  Suddenly, I was like a single parent of our four-year-old daughter and sole caretaker of our mobile home.  Always the optimist, I believed this would be a great opportunity to show I could manage both tasks successfully.  The first few days weren’t bad.  I dropped Laura off at daycare, went to work, came home and fixed dinner.  Laura whimpered at bedtime when her daddy was not there to tuck in his baby girl.  The weekend came and I was oblivious to the unexplainable nebula of darkness that formed in the skies above.

Laura’s blue eyes widened with excitement as she watched me push the nearly immovable coffee table across the room.  An innocent look of wonder crossed Laura’s face as I unfolded the full size sofa-sleeper.  I had planned our little living room camp-out the night before as I tried comforting Laura to sleep.  I hoped she would someday cherish the memory as much as I cherished having a sleep over at my grandparent’s home when I was small.  Her long blond braids bounced as she grabbed her tattered flannel blanket and her hand-me-down stuffed dog, Henry, and jumped onto the newly made bed.

I read her a story and soon she was fast asleep.  Despite the metal frame from the stow-away bed poking my back and hips, I too drifted off to sleep about midnight.

“BAM! BAM! BAM!”   I was jolted awake by what sounded like shotgun blasts which vibrated the wall near my head.  It was pitch black when I jumped out of bed and slammed both shins into the anvil of a table.  I probably would have paused to tend to my injuries, but my heart was pounding out of my chest with anticipation of the next round of ammo coming through the wall.  I stumbled across the room and worked my trembling fingers between the slats on the tightly closed blinds, trying hopelessly to see from where the ghastly noise had come.

Silence filled the room.  All I could see was the familiar trailer next door and a starlit sky above it.  Anxiously, I moved from room to room checking every window in great expectation of some horrific monster with a gun.  At each window I saw nothing, but peaceful moonlit yards.  My breathing began to slow and my heart no longer pounded louder than the clock on the wall.

         I did not imagine that noise, I told myself.   I glanced at my daughter sleeping soundly and began to question my sanity even more.  If the noise had been as loud as I remember, how could she still be asleep?

A few minutes passed when I heard a light rap on a distant door and a voice say, “Hey Mike, get up.  The police are on the way.”   It was Jerry, the neighbor, from two trailers up the road trying to stir my next door neighbor.  He seemed relatively calm as he walked back and forth waiting for Mike to come out.

I could not go back to bed until I knew what had happened.  I quickly got dressed and decided to go outside to get an explanation.  I listened as Jerry explained to Mike that he had been home from work for just a short while when he heard the engine of his new car start up.  He grabbed his loaded 20-gauge shotgun and chased the would-be thieves down to my trailer where he pulled the trigger and let off a few rounds.  Now I understood why the shots I heard were so close to my house.  The boys had jumped out of his car and it rolled until it was stopped by Mike’s car.

The only casualties from the shotgun blast were a few cars across the street which looked like they had been sandblasted.  Within a few minutes, the police arrived with a canine unit and having a great fear of dogs, I excused myself to check on Laura.  She was still sleeping soundly and oblivious to the excitement of the night.  I put on a pot of coffee and settled down with a paperback until dawn.

to be continued…….

Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

An Old Dog Or An Old Fool?????


I have always proclaimed my ineptness when it comes to computers and their infinite ability to make me feel ignorant, though never more than through this week’s efforts to the weekly writing challenge – And Now For Something Completely different.

How can it be so difficult to insert more than one picuture into a post?  It’s not like my portable einstein gives me a clue as to what I’m doing wrong- well, perhapps it does, but it is in a foreign techinical language that I have yet to master.

Still, I am a hopeful person, so I persist.

Perhaps my theme is designed to hold only one photo.  I may be on to something.  Let me struggle for another two days and see if I can get the grasp of this.  Oh look!  Third picture and I successfully changed positions.  Thank you new theme!!

Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles to make sense out of something that was designed to be so simplel  I need some support and encouragement.  Can an old dog learn new tricks or will I remain stuck in the paper and pen world until I fade away?

What’s in it for You?


It amazes me how many people publish books and write blogs.  There were over a million posts on WordPress.com just today.  My inherent desire to understand fellow writers leads me to ask the question “Why do you write?”

For me, I think there are three main reasons that come to mind.

  1. Writing is my passion.  Pens and paper can be found on nearly every flat surface in my house.  It comforts me to work through my emotions whether I am happy or sad, frustrated or fulfilled.  Writing my first book, Peaks and Valley, (available through Amazon and Kindle) provided me an opportunity to revisit my childhood.  It also allowed me to recognize issues that sometimes kept me from embracing life to the fullest.  The therapeutic aspect was an unexpected bonus.  By writing I can script romantic fascinations and be openly honest without risking being misunderstood by family and friends.
  2. When I retired, I began to feel removed from people other than my immediate family.  I thrive on being connected to other people.  Writing my blog increases the chance of connecting with people who share a common interest, fellow writers.  When I check my stats and see that someone read one of my posts, it brings a smile to my face.  Should someone take the time to leave a comment, I am delighted and encouraged to keep writing.
  3. On numerous occasions, something I wrote, a poem, a letter, a short story, has touched another person’s soul and perhaps made their day a little brighter.  There is a voice in my head, call it divine intervention or a gift that speaks words of comfort for me to share with others in times of need.  It is my belief that each of us are blessed with gifts and once we recognize them, it is our duty to share them.

So why do you write?  I’d love to know.

Making Order Out of Chaos


It came to me at 4 a.m.  I woke an hour earlier and could not force my eyelids to close, so I wandered into the dining room table, my makeshift study, and turned on my laptop.  Deep thoughts, remnants of an unfinished dream scattered about my mind waiting for me to release them in a journal or on my blog.

By the time I turn the coffee pot on and settle down on the hard oak chair, the burning words have drifted too far and I cannot retrieve them.

I double-click on Free Cell, a guilty pleasure that often consumes many hours of my day.  Silently I reprimand myself for wasting more time on a silly game when I should be writing, or catching a few more minutes of elusive sleep.

It is a form of Solitaire.  The cards are randomly dealt into eight rows and the goal is to end up with each suit placed in one of the four cells at the top.  I click and drag a jack of clubs onto a queen of hearts.  After a few minutes, I watch the cards spill forth in celebration, announcing that I have won another game.

Then it comes to me, as clear as black ink on white paper.  The strong attraction to this game is that it makes sense out of chaos.  The rules are clear, the goal defined and I know each game can be won, if only I have the patience to sort out the solution.  For a few minutes each time I play, I can figure out how to fit the final piece of the puzzle into place and delight momentarily in a sense of accomplishment.

If only life were so easy.